A long nightmare before a promised dawn
LAHORE, Dec 9: As the Punjab government goes about transforming the cityscape with simultaneous execution of many projects, the man in the street is paying high price in terms of time and energy.
It has become nothing short of an ordeal for the motorists to reach their destinations – homes, workplaces, educational institutions and places of appointments. The daily sights of ambulances getting stuck in endless queues of vehicles, sirens wailing, show signs of a city in desperation.
While the government advisers and staunch supporters of these projects keep parroting the slogan “today’s inconvenience means a better tomorrow”, the generality of people believe the massive construction activities are ill-advised. The government should better have avoided the Metro Bus Service project if it had widening of various city roads and intersections through overhead bridges and underpasses in mind.
“I think there was no need for MBS as it was better to bring new buses and widen roads/intersections by constructing underpasses or flyovers wherever needed,” Salman Mirza, a resident of Multan Road, told Dawn.
He said the masses were left with no option but to put up with the daily troubles.
Independent experts say the PML-N-led Punjab government had failed to stick to its plan while launching various development projects, mainly the MBS, in March this year. It seems the magnitude of work has gone beyond the estimates and capabilities of the planners.
They say the MBS is unlikely to be successful as it has divided the city into two parts on its 27-km long route from Gajjumatta to Shahdara.
“Every ruler has a ‘Shahjehan’ inside. But the sitting ruler of Punjab is posing himself as a ‘Sher Shah Suri’ who was known to be doing development works on a very fast pace,” Lahore Conservation Society Secretary Prof Ajaz Anwar commented while speaking to Dawn on Saturday.
He said: “The MBS and other mega development projects leave the people in a mess on city roads. At present, a majority of people have no option but to use Canal and Mall roads to reach their destinations, causing worst traffic congestions.”
He said as the Ferozepur Road was the biggest artery of the city, it accommodated a huge number of people while moving to various parts. He said while moving from Gajjumatta to Shahdara via Ferozepur Road and Lytton Road, there were scores of roads/localities linking this major route on both sides.
“But the MBS construction has almost closed chances of crossing Ferozepur Road from various sub-arteries, forcing the people to use streets and narrow passages,” he said.
Pointing out some flaws in the project, he said the natural beauty had been sacrificed at the altar of so-called modernisation.
Describing the MBS as Jangla Bus Service, Mr Anwar advises the government to wrap up this project to mitigate the sufferings of the people.
An official said the completion of the MBS in near future would not end the problems as there were many other projects that were either under way or soon to be launched. “The bus project alone is enough to trouble people,” the official shared the public perception on the request of anonymity.
He said the government intended constructing a signal-free corridor at Qartaba Chowk. “This project will add to the problems for the citizens,” he added.
Projects such as Model Town and Kalma Chowk underpasses, Multan Road remodelling and rehabilitation (Scheme Morr to Chauburji) and M.M. Alam Road work are going on at the moment.
The government, he said, should have started development projects one by one to spare the public a pathetic situation on roads. He also hit out at the bus project, saying the government could avert closure of intersections and crossings by constructing a 27-km long overhead bridge on the bus project route.
Engineers engaged in the project should have given a proposal to the government to construct another long bridge, measuring about 19kms, from Gajjumatta to Ichhra instead of constructing the corridor on ground.A senior Tepa official said the projects would benefit people in the long run. “We know people are facing problems these days but they should realise that the government is doing all this for them,” Tepa Chief Engineer Saeed Akhtar told Dawn.
He said keeping in view the public problems, the government had decided to start construction work on Qartaba Chowk signal-free project only after the MBS completion.
He said Qartaba flyover would be constructed parallel to the dedicated bus flyover. The project wouldn’t affect Bahawalpur Road or other localities lining the intersection, he said.